With 4.66 billion active internet users worldwide, having an online presence is a must for any business, regardless of whether they are a global giant or a local venture. They need a solid digital marketing strategy that will allow them to tap into that robust consumer base.
Behind digital marketing, you will find many different activities, with SEO and Google Ads being the most popular ones. Though you might want to use as many tools as possible, including a marketing automation agency, as a young business, you might have limited finances and need to choose strategies that will yield the best results without spending too much.
Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs fail to recognize whether SEO or Google Ads brings the best return on their investment.
You might be wondering which is the better choice for you - SEO or Google Ads. To help you, we will explain what exactly they are and how they work.
This way, you will be able to understand the pros and cons of both strategies. With that knowledge, you will make an informed decision for your business. Here is what you need to know.
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization (SEO) consists of activities that aim to place your business higher on the search result pages (SERPs) for particular queries. That includes optimizing your website and its content so that the algorithm marks it as relevant for that subject.
Nowadays, SEO is critical to the success of a business - with so many products and services available, businesses are in fierce competition for customers' limited attention.
As Sistrix reports, 28.5% of people will click on the first result on the Google listing. The second and third positions have 15% and 11% click-through rates, respectively.
As you can see, the higher your position, the more traffic your website receives, which increases your chance of converting prospective customers into buyers. This, in turn, translates into the success of your business.
To determine the results, search engines use a series of algorithms that assess which content will be most relevant. That includes important keywords, the usability of the website, the expertise of the sources, the location, and the setting.
Moreover, as per the nature of the query, the weight of each factor might vary. For example, when the query concerns news topics, the algorithms will prioritize the freshness of the content.
Google's rankings are based on around 200 factors, such as keywords, content quality, user experience, mobile friendliness, page load time, and website security. SEO can help you optimize those aspects of your website.
What are Google Ads
Known as Google AdWords until 2018, Google Ads is a pay-per-click (PPC) digital advertising channel that allows you to land your business at the top of search results pages without worrying about rankings, algorithms, and SEO. But as you have probably already realized, you will have to pay for that spot.
Google PPC ads appear in several forms:
- Search Ads: They appear on the search results and look similar to organic search results. However, you can recognize them by a small tag "ad" that signals what they really are. They are positioned above or below the organic search results.
- Shopping Ads: They appear at the top of the search results page and consist of images of products, their prices, and possible discounts. Working in carousel format, they show products from various online stores.
- Local Search Ads: They allow you to appear at the top of the local listings. People often use the phrase "near me" when looking for a local product or service. Google then shows them a map and a list of potential businesses – each of them comes with important information, such as operating hours or address, and a location marker on the map.
- Display Ads and Google Display Network (GDN): Those appear on the articles, websites, or videos that are part of the Google Display Network. With over 2 million participants, the network reaches over 90% of Internet users across the globe. As such, it is crucial to narrow down the targeting in terms of location, demographics, and interests so your ad appears on relevant websites.
Since Google Ads operates on the PPC scheme, you will only pay when users click on your ad. In those terms, Google Ads is a more profitable marketing platform since you only pay for actual results and not for the spot, as is the case with newspapers, billboards, and other traditional advertising methods.
However, Google Ads implements a bidding system. That means you will have to bid on the keywords that are most relevant for your ad and pay the settled price each time someone clicks on it.
As we have established before, the position matters, and it will be determined on the basis of your bid and the Quality Score of the ad.
The differences between SEO and Google Ads
Both SEO and Google Ads will help you attract relevant traffic to your website, which increases your chances of selling products. Still, they focus on distinct marketing activities, so there are some fundamental differences between the two. Here are some of them:
After implementing the right strategies, SEO will continuously generate traffic to your website.
Google Ads generates traffic only when you run the campaign. Once you stop, the traffic comes to a complete halt.
With SEO, you have to invest in appropriate tools or services, which may require payment for up to 12 months.
In the case of Google Ads, you pay when someone clicks on your ad or pay per-view for the YouTube Ad campaign. However, because of the bidding system, you might expect to pay a lot more for a click if you belong to a competitive niche.
With Google ads, the results can be immediate. All you need to do is make the ad and make a bid large enough so that your product appears on the listings.
SEO focuses only on search results pages, whereas Google Ads can get your ad placed on SERPs and also other websites that are part of the Google Network, including YouTube.
Which one should you choose?
Now that you have learned what SEO and Google Ads are, it is time to ponder which one is better for your startup. To answer this question, you have to consider your current goals, desired reach, and available budget and time.
SEO is the perfect digital marketing strategy for someone who wants to create steady long-term traffic or increase brand awareness. You will need patience and follow a systematic SEO strategy before you see the desired results.
Creating a highly-functional website, optimizing it for relevant keywords, providing new and engaging content, and building up backlinks - are just some of the SEO activities, but they are already time-consuming.
That is why SEO might not be for someone who quickly gives up on a marketing campaign and moves on to create something better.
For someone who wants instant leads and sales, we would recommend Google Ads. However, ads are not everything. You still need a user-friendly website that will make it easier for your visitors to find a product and finalize the purchase.
For best results, your ad should send the interested people to a landing or product page instead of homepages, so that can save time on searching.
Moreover, you have to constantly monitor the performance of your campaign and make necessary adjustments that will take it to the next level.
As you have seen, SEO and Google Ads differ quite a bit, and each one is better suited for a specific type of campaign. Therefore, it is important to know when to use which marketing strategy to make it the most advantageous for your business.
It might seem that Google Ads is better for new websites, whereas SEO should be used by established websites that want medium growth – the first one is focused on the results, the latter on growth.
However, remember that they are not mutually exclusive. If you have enough resources, be it money or time, you could try to see what SEO and Google Ads will do for your business.
What is your choice?